Thursday, December 19, 2013

We've moved...

In case you've still been checking this blog for updates, the DIEHARD Blog has moved over to You'll find it under the blog section.

Thanks for reading and Go Owls!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Potential Housing Game Plan

FAU has made no secret about transforming its Boca Raton campus from a "commuter college" to a "traditional university" and we've made tremendous progress on various fronts - housing, stadium, recreational, Greek Life, out-of-state enrollment. But nobody seems to quite agree on when we'll fully "arrive" as a traditional university.

Part of it is the number of students we have living on-campus. FAU was founded in 1961 (52 years ago) yet is often compared to places like the University of Florida, which was founded in 1853 (160 years ago) and has upwards of 9,200 students living on-campus, as well as Florida State University, founded in 1851, with around 6,200 students.

Some would argue that the traditional atmosphere is dependent on the number of residential students you have living on-campus because the more people you have around, the more it "feels" like a traditional campus. So let's break it down by university (with year founded in parentheses) to see where we stand for on-campus housing:

(numbers are approximate)

UF (1853) - 9,200 students
UCF (1963) - 6,500
USF (1956) - 6,500 students
FSU (1851) - 6,200 residential students  
FAU (1961) - 4,200 (as of Fall 2013)
FIU (1965) - 3,629
FGCU(1991) -2,700?
UWF (1963) - 2,000
UNF (1969) - 1,560
Florida Polytechnic (2012) - 0?
FAMU (1887) - N/A
New College (1960) - N/A

Note: It was difficult to ascertain some of those numbers (some Wikipedia pages are better than others) but they should be pretty close. And I'm not sure how many of those include Greek housing or not.

We're fifth on the list... which isn't too bad. And we're currently ahead of FIU, which is a win in and of itself. That we're behind UF and FSU shouldn't be a surprise, although the disparity between those two is pretty interesting. USF and UCF have a little rivalry going on there but we're in the same "class" as UCF and USF (if nothing else by the year founded) so that's probably the number we should be shooting for. I think most people would agree that FAU will probably cool off around 4,800 but could go to 9,000 someday, sure.

So that's one school of thought: that we should shoot for at least 5-6K and then we'll finally be a "fully traditional campus" because there will be so many people around. And to that end, we're in an ideal spot to do it because there isn't a whole lot of affordable off-campus housing right now, so we could continue to build dorms as long as the demand is there. The demand is a big key, obviously, because we typically think it's time to build a new dorm when our waitlist for housing hovers around 600. Fortunately the more dorms you have, the higher the demand goes, thus why we opened IVA in 2011 and now Parliament Hall in 2013. If that level of demand continues (or intensifies), we could easily hit 6,000 residential students in ten years.

Of course after you've spent $30M+ on a new dorm, you want to ensure that the occupancy rate continues to be high because otherwise you have difficulty paying down the debt. FAU has noticed that more freshmen and sophomores are interested in living on-campus than juniors and seniors, and that's half the crowd that you're losing right out the door. In 2012 alone you had 4,256 freshmen, 3,352 sophomores, 6,708 juniors and 9,020 seniors. Altogether you're talking about 7,608 underclassmen compared to 15,728 upperclassmen (graduate students make up another 4,605 students). See how much of a market there could be for upperclassmen (and graduate) housing?

The Housing Game Plan 

(Not an official FAU policy or proposal, just some ideas from your friends here at FAU Diehard)

- Now that the amount of beds on campus (4,200) roughly equals the number of freshmen, you can either flat-out require all freshmen to live on-campus or severely restrict the number of miles allowed away from campus to waive the requirement of living on campus. Currently that sits at 50 miles. That needs to come down to at least 30 miles. No one should be commuting 45 minutes each way to FAU every day, especially not freshmen.

- Next up (2015?) needs to be Greek Housing. The main factors to get this off the ground are cost and chapter grades, which is why it teeters year-to-year. One way or the other, in some form, Greek Housing has to come to campus. It already has a spot allocated for it west of (the upcoming) Parking Garage 3.

 - Let's say Greek Housing puts us at 4,500 in 2015. That's a good overall number for us right now. At that point we need to put into place new standards for buildings moving forward. We want to minimize the "sardine effect" and maximize personal space and comfort. Maybe we don't need to build dorms for 600 people; maybe we can scale them down to 300 and make upperclassmen dorms with just singles and doubles that have living rooms, kitchens and even (gasp!) porches!

- Use more carpet so it doesn't feel like you're living in the closet of an office building. With the lobby, use wood and bring in plants, put out a nice big rug and hang some art. Class it up a little bit so you don't feel like you're living in a dorm even when you totally are.

- Include small, 24-hour gyms as part of each new dorm. Most off-campus communities have these now, even if it's just two treadmills, an elliptical and some free weights. This will not be a threat to the Rec Center.

- Allow upperclassmen to choose their roommate, even if it's the opposite sex, and allow husbands and wives to live in these upperclassmen dorms. Off-campus apartments will allow this and to compete with them and keep students on-campus, this is going to have to be a part of it.

- Allow students to have cats. Dogs bark and require walking but cats live indoors and are completely quiet when you're not there or when strangers are over. Nobody in an apartment complex ever knocks on your door and complains about your cat.

- Change the meal plan requirement so that all residence halls with kitchens in the suite do not require a meal plan. Having a mandatory meal plan is a big deterrent for keeping students on campus, though IVA residents are not required to have a meal plan (a good step forward)

- Work with Campus Rec and other entities to improve and supplement existing recreational opportunities associated with each building. IVA has a pool that attracts people there. IRT has a tanning deck (and living rooms!). GPT has an Outtakes. Gonq has a BBQ pit. HPT has... Heritage Park? Not sure that's really attracting people there, though it is the closest to the Breezeway. UVA has, uh, a small gameroom and a sand volleyball court. Parliament will have the dining hall. But we can improve on these things, for instance: putting greens, themed lounges, indoor sand volleyball (with A/C), covered basketball courts (so students can still play in the rain or blazing heat), gaming rooms with projectors, music rooms with instruments you can check out and additional dedicated study rooms.

Some of these are obviously easier to do than others - especially if you're the one footing the bill. But the university will continue to build new dorms over the years and if you're going to spend tens of millions of dollars on something, might as well do it right the first time so you don't have to renovate it for millions of dollars a few years later, right? You can do it, FAU!

                                                                             GO OWLS!

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Cost of Progress

We've talked a lot about the changes FAU (and Boca Raton) could make by building new structures - academic, sports, housing, parking. It's so easy to see what other universities are doing and ask, "Why don't we have that? We should be building one of those."

The answer is obvious: it's expensive. Let's go category by category to explain just how crazy expensive it is to keep up with the expectations of the students, the alumni and the community... to say nothing about getting ahead of everyone else.

(NOTE: All numbers are ballpark estimates)


As the Sun Sentinel recently pointed out, FAU is trying to figure out a way to improve its 4-year graduation rate (currently at 40%) to match the national standard (58%). We're falling behind for a lot of reasons. One reason is that we've encouraged part-time enrollment, building a reputation as a place that you can attend at your convenience. But think about it: when you have students taking 3-6 credits a semester, how long do you think it will take them to achieve the required 120 credits for a bachelor's degree? A while, right?

The best way to understand the gravity of the problem is to look at the actual numbers: in 2012, FAU had 17,579 full-time students and 12,722 part-time students.That means for an overall enrollment of 30,301 students, nearly 42% of them were part-time.


But the second reason why people aren't graduating in 4 years? Not enough classes available for all the students. And when we talk about not enough classes, we're not talking about professors who "just don't feel like teaching more classes"; remember that being a professor means teaching multiple classes, advising graduate students, doing research and often sitting on committees as well. They have a lot on their plate.

No, the bottleneck is often that we don't have enough space to even hold classes. Some of you may have experienced this at FAU: looking at your upcoming class schedule and wondering why you were taking something like College Algebra in... the Oxley? Or Reason and Value in... the Alumni Center?

We just didn't have the space.

On the low end you can expand by adding something like General Classroom North (GN), though from my understanding FAU declared a moratorium on new buildings under four stories tall. So what they really want is something like the Culture and Society building, which cost them $25.6 million, or the new Engineering Building, $46.4 million. Therefore, depending on the size of the building and what's in (lecture space vs lecture space plus labs) and the going rate of construction during that particular timeframe,

The cost of a new academic building: $20-60M.

Hence why FAU is so keenly interested in online classes: more classes and more students while the IT infrastructure needed is much less than constructing a physical space for the class.

Yet it's important to have physical space to foster the student experience. According to the Boca Raton campus Master Plan, FAU would like to add at least two more general academic buildings (blue, #43 and 45; one north of the new Engineering building and one north of the Education building) and (I believe) expand the old Engineering building (#32) to turn that into general education space. Makes sense, though I think the Engineering renovation may need to wait until they can move everybody that's left there into New Engineering Building Phase II, rumored to be on the southwest side of the new building (it would be part of a complex). Unfortunately the rendering seems to have slipped away from me on the web at the moment...


FAU's Athletic Director, Pat Chun, said that their #1 facility priority is not a new baseball stadium but instead a new academic center for all athletes. So, how much would something like that cost?

Well, the University of Michigan paid $12M for the Stephen M. Ross Academic Center in 2006. According to this article, LSU spent $15M and Georgia spent $7M. Other articles claim similar numbers. So depending on how big and fancy we want to get:

The cost of  a new academic center: $5-20M

This quote from the above article was particularly telling: "It’s getting competitive — that’s one of the reasons why we have this center,” said Becky Galvin, an academic counselor and tutorial coordinator at Georgia. “The coaches started hearing from kids that so-and-so had a nicer academic center. We had a good academic program, but we didn’t have all the bells and whistles.”

It's not just feel of the coaches, or liking the area, TV time, the stadium, the fanbase, the weight room... it's also about where these kids are going to get help with their homework that's influencing where they sign to play D-1 sports. And that's a good thing, don't get me wrong, but that's just one more thing that we now have to spend millions of dollars on to keep up with everyone else. For the record, FAU does have the Student-Athlete Center for Academic Excellence, also known as Room 261 in the Oxley Center.

Room, not building. Room. See why Chun thinks that should be #1? After all, if we don't do well in the classroom, our APR takes a hit, scholarships get revoked, and FAU sports can go to hell in a handbasket pretty quickly.


Prices for new dorms are all over the place depending on how traditional you want to go with it and what the competition is like for off-campus apartments. Whereas students used to be housed in plain, barracks-style buildings (think old school Algonquin), that trend has basically evaporated and made way for newer, lavish, apartment-style dorms with not only fancy things like "kitchens" but also sports bars, lazy rivers and even Swedish saunas. (no, seriously)

So that's what we're up against nationally. But what about locally? Well, FAU has some competition for off-campus apartments but not until Addison Park have they really felt the pressure to up their game. I'd like to say we're in a "dorm-building frenzy" but maybe that's just wishful thinking. However, in the last few years we will have added almost 2,000 students to campus. That's quite a bit. And bringing them here wasn't cheap, though one FAU source told me that building them is "not a problem because they pay for themselves" (assuming 95+% occupancy, of course).

And how much to pay for themselves? The new dorm, Parliament Hall, cost $41,678,000 and is being paid back at IIRC approximately $3M a year. The cost of Innovation Village Apartments was a little more substantial because it was two buildings: $99,056,915. However, there's a deal with Crocker Partners and I think they might have both fronted the construction cost and collect the rent checks, so if that's true, then Parliament Hall is FAU's first true new dorm they can claim ownership on since Glades Park Towers. In any case:

Cost of a new dorm: $30-100M


As we've discussed before, the #1 complaint among students is parking. Students believe that "if they're paying all this money" that they should be entitled to "find a good parking spot" meaning "a spot right next to the building where my class is located." So they park in the grass - despite signs clearly saying not to - or they park somewhere else they know they can't park, then they get tickets and go on Twitter to complain about how "FAU sucks!!!!" and they're "so tired of this b.s.!!!" They figure it wouldn't be such a problem if we could just build a new parking garage.

Cost of a new parking garage: $13,350,000

Or, at least, that's what Parking Garage 3 is costing us. Maybe PG 4 would be even more. Who knows?

Wouldn't it be great to build 3 or 4 of these and knock out the parking problem? Sure but FAU very carefully calculates how much debt they can pay back on based upon parking decal fees and, yep, even revenue derived from parking tickets. So these things come slowly but surely but when they do, when FAU announces a new parking garage, students on Twitter and Facebook send prayers of thanks off to their favorite deities.  

Fortunately FAU doesn't have to depend on alumni donations to make these things possible. A large part of it comes from the State Legislature, although even they have a budget to meet and may not always sign off on a new building, no matter how worthy the cause may seem to us. The money has dried up a little bit in the past few years but it sounds like things are slowly turning around. FAU will always have some money to throw up new buildings... it's just a matter of how much that determines how fast.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Photo Update 6/11/13

Swung by campus yesterday to check on the recent developments.

The Centre Marketplace addition is finishing up and should be ready for people by the end of next month.

Here's a rendering showing off what looks to be... a coffee and tea bar? Not really sure what to make of it. This space also looks very much like the sandwich bar space just to the left after you enter... not sure why they'd give that up to convert it to whatever this is...

Here's a somewhat blurry shot showing what the inside of the Centre Marketplace looks like right now.

These are great posters that are up in various places (including several places in the Student Union) promoting 4-year graduation, a percentage we definitely need to improve here at FAU to move up in the rankings.

There were also a lot of framed posters from Program Board concerts in the recent past hanging up on the second floor of the Student Union. It underscored how much entertainment SG has provided to the students and what caliber bands we could get here.

As you probably know, Coyote Jack's is now becoming "The Burrow Bar & Grill." There's a sign on the doors saying "closed over summer." Doesn't look like they've done much (if anything) inside right now. The Student Union itself is supposed to get some new furniture as well, though the formal expansion is a No Go according to an SU manager "because Rick Scott vetoed our money." So that's another year off at least, though when it does happen the first consideration will likely be to create a second floor of additional meeting rooms for the Live Oak Pavillion. The Brian Keintz (old SU director) plan to divide up the Grand Palm to create a space for the gamers since they were displaced by the New era salon has been shelved since the space is in high demand right now. I believe it will be divided up eventually since any northward expansion of the existing Union would likely have to take over the grass performance space and creating a hallway through the Grand Palm is the best way to access that space.

Moving on to the rest of campus, the Breezeway floor has been repainted. Same color. Nothing new there, same thing happens every summer to keep it fresh. No new developments along the Breezeway save for a few more tables adjacent to Business East. So nothing to show there. At the north end of the Breezeway, however, one could find this construction fence on the southwest side of the Rec Center...

And here's the project area. I'm told it will be a new fitness classroom space.

Here are two renderings of the new Innovation Village Parking Garage. Not sure if you've seen them already or not. Have to say I'm still very disappointed that the retail component will not be in place when this garage is finished... apparently because it would have delayed construction and they wanted to open it during the Fall semester (could be as late as November)

It's a little out of view in this rendering but if you look in the lower left-hand corner you can see the new traffic signal intersection. It looks like the only entrance will be on the west side of the garage. Not sure how this will work out for gameday parking in the future but I'm sure it won't be free...

For those of you who haven't been on campus in a couple years, the Education building got a new paint job a little while back. It used to be mostly white.

And finally, Volusia Street - the street you take from Parking Garage 1 toward the Burrow/baseball stadium - got a couple spirit banners when President Obama came to speak. Always a nice touch.

 Executive summary of developments:

- Parliament Hall: Housing has put up a great photo album on their FB page showing off progress on the new dorm. Might want to bookmark that and reference that going forward. Much better shots than I can get you so I'm going to turn it over to them.
- Student Union Expansion: On hold.
- Breezeway Renovation: Nothing substantial yet, just a repaint. They do have the money for it though.
- Campus Rec Expansion: In progress, adding new fitness room. A plan to add more volleyball, tennis and basketball courts is ON HOLD because of money.
- Baseball Stadium Renovation/New Stadium: Pat Chun told media it was "third priority" behind New Academic Center and Weight Room. To be fair, that does service ALL sports as opposed to just one. The $1M baseball stadium renovation project that was proposed has dropped off the Construction List; it would have been a joint contribution between the university and Athletics.
- New Basketball Arena: Nothing new on this front. See above.
- 20th Street/University Blvd: FAU and the City recently met to express their mutual interest in making this project happen. Only thing that really came out of it was pointing out that they were both on the same page and that they needed to meet again in the near future. I'll keep an eye out for any Boca legislation that would formally change the name.

Guess that's it for now. As always,


Friday, April 26, 2013

Projects Underway

Parking Garage 3 is finally under construction but there's very little to show you at this point other than a green fence surrounding dirt being moved around by cranes. Doesn't make for very exciting photographs but the good news is, it's underway. Very much doubt it'll be ready by the home football opener vs MTSU on September 21st but it could be open by the Shula Bowl on 11/29 (official word from FAU is "late Fall 2013").

Unfortunately, I'm hearing that Garage 3 will not have retail when it opens. Guess this is to be expected since there haven't been any announcements about it and nobody seemed to know what was going on there until now. Pretty bummed about that.

Other projects that FAU is working on:

- The $2M Centre Marketplace expansion, expected to open mid-July 2013.

 - $1.8M addition to the Memory & Wellness Center, funded by donation.

- Trauma Simulation Center for the Med School in the R&D park.

- The College of Urban and Regional Planning is consolidating in Boca while the School of Graphic Design and Multimedia is shipping down to the Davie campus.

- Campus Rec is looking into a "Design [for an] outdoor sports facility incl Vollyball, tennis & basketball courts" but that project is classified as ON HOLD.A basketball court and a sand volleyball court are in the design for the courtyard of the new dorm, Parliament Hall.

- Along those lines is a "QUOTE - Add three sand Volleyball Courts west of Oxley." WEST of the Oxley? West of the Oxley is the football practice fields, so they must mean even west of that... but that seems pretty out of the way to put up some sand volleyball courts.

- Renovation for the Student Union lobby, including new furniture. This may be tied to the upcoming expansion of the Union.

- Quote to add a projection screen to the Founders Lounge.

- Repaving 20th Street.

Nothing new on:

- Construction of University Park on 20th Street.

- 20th Street becoming University Boulevard.

In other news:

- The Team Store on the second floor of the stadium opened for the Spring Game, so now there are two team stores in the stadium.

- The Jupiter campus held their first TED conference and it went well. For those who aren't familiar with the event, TED stands for "Technology, Education and Design." The so-called "TED talks" originated in California and have drawn in a ton of fascinating speakers to discuss advances in their respective fields, usually via story. Here's a great example:

FAU's conference may not have drawn in any famous speakers during its first go-around but it's a start and a step in the right direction. Hope it spreads to the Boca campus as well.

                                                                             GO OWLS!

Monday, April 15, 2013

New Food Options in the New Dorm

According to the March 20th, 2013 Meeting Minutes on the DineonCampus website, the new dorm should have a Red Mango and a Simply Puur.

Red Mango is a frozen yogurt, smoothie and "frozen coffee chillers" place. On their site you'll find this list which goes into a little more detail about that. Basically we'll finally have a froyo place on campus.

Simply Puur seems like a "healthier, more wholesome" version of the Caf - which is good. Sandwiches, soups, rice bowls, coffee. Below is a promotional video showing off some of their food, though if you just want to skip it you can see their full menus here. You can also read the Yelp reviews of the Orlando location here.

In other Dining News, Chartwells had sponsored a Naming Contest for Coyote Jack's (which is unfortunately over now, sorry about that) via their Facebook page because "The Client (The University) wants to have their own brand and start a new legacy. IT will still be a sports bar like place but with a new flare and menu."

I assume this means it will have a more FAU-specific name (Coyote Jack's never really made any sense) and hopefully, ohpleasegod, a decent menu for once; I could never get anybody to go there for food after the first time, which was pretty telling.

They got >400 submissions and the winner of the Coyote Jacks Renaming Contest will be announced June 1st. 

What would you have called it?
                                                                             GO OWLS!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Photo Update: Centre Marketplace Expansion, All-Night Study Center

If you've been on campus lately, you might have noticed some construction going on over at the Student Union. This is not the formal expansion project we've previously discussed but rather an expansion to the Centre Marketplace buffet area, colloquially known on campus as "the Caf."

(Not "the Cafe," mind you, but "the Caf." No idea why.)
So what are they doing? Well, as FAU grows, so too must the dining areas for feeding them. With the new, yet-unnamed Residence Hall opening in Fall 2013, our total residential student population will be topping out around 4,100 people, so Chartwells needed to expand the Caf by 500 seats.

(As an interesting side note, we had only 2,300 people living on campus in 2010, a mere three years ago)

According to FAU documents, the project will double the capacity of the Caf at a cost of $5.6M. That's a figure that may sting a little bit considering how close it is to the $6M that GEO Group was going to give us, but apparently this is a contractual thing requiring Chartwells Food Services to make capital investments in the university infrastructure. So it's not like FAU is using $5.6M that it had stashed away somewhere that could have gone to the stadium. Let's be clear on that.

EDIT: I previously stated that the expansion would cost $2M, which seems like a more reasonable estimate to just add more floor space, so I'm wondering what the additional cost could be - maybe new food kiosks? I'll ask around. At one point there was a rumor going around that Chartwells was considering a dedicated kitchen area that you could order a dinner from and then pick it up; perhaps that's back on the table? I have absolutely no sources to back that up at this time, though, so take it with a grain of salt.


I snapped some pictures for you guys on a recent visit. Here's how the Expansion looks now:

If you remember the giant egg/football/whale statue that used to be coming out of the ground, this completely replaced that - it's going to extend pretty much all the way to the road (West University Drive).

And here's how it will look:

Not too shabby! Especially digging the multicolored planes of glass. The rendering also suggests that the road in front of it will be redone with pavers, but I honestly doubt that's going to happen because, quite frankly, paving just the portion of road outside of the Caf will look silly and repaving a larger portion of West University to match it would be pretty costly.

That said, I do think both Glades entrances should be redone with pavers to give them a more grandiose presentation but seeing as they just repaved the western (main) entrance with regular asphalt, I doubt they're going to be installing pavers any time soon. Maybe it's for the best because what you'd really want to do there is pavers, extensive landscaping around the signs and redo the median to have a water feature like a row of fountains.

In the meantime, we can continue to do other small projects like this recent $50,000 renovation of the All-Night Study Area on the east side of the library. According to the new SG website, the renovation provided for "better seating, charging stations, and study areas." Take a look:

As you can see, one thing SG has been really good about is integrating the school colors into more things. I'm not sure how much of this was red and blue before (pretty sure the stairwell was already blue, or maybe more of a green color before?) but the second floor definitely has more blue and red. Also, I believe this seating area is new:

I used the All-Night Study Area quite a bit in undergrad - in fact, my study group was once kicked out because it "wasn't open yet." Once it opened, it was an awesome place because every university needs to have a 24/7 study spot. The fact is tests occur on all days of the week and there are times when students need to review Powerpoints on campus at 2 am on a Tuesday for their test at 9 am on Wednesday morning, so there needs to be a place for them. That's just college (and grad school, and professional school, but you get my point). So the original construction of this facility was pivotal especially since they had removed the original 24-hour Study Center that became Einstein's Bagels (for those of you who are new to FAU, that's what used to be in that space).

But even that's not enough space, as anecdotal reports are streaming through on Twitter about people having to sit on the floor in the library because there isn't enough space. Student Government responded by requesting that Administration consider building a dedicated Study Building, which on most college campuses is called "a new library." Hey, you never know. FAU does have an interest in building a "Science and Technology Library."

Student Government has been up to a couple other things as well. Three Historic Plaques have gone up on campus dedicated to the football team (seen below), the university's dedication by Lyndon B. Johnson (by the library) and President Barack Obama speaking at the Burrow (outside the Burrow). There may be more but these are the ones that I know about right now.

In other news, there's been no movement (as far as I can tell) on the following projects:

- University Park, the dorm project to be built on 20th Street
- Officially renaming 20th Street to University Boulevard

Until next time.

P.S. Don't let the recent controversies at FAU shake your faith. This is still a great school with great people and a great atmosphere. It's still making tremendous strides forward. Be proud of your heritage.

                                                                            GO OWLS!